A test of depth and physical wherewithal stands ahead for Columbus Crew SC, as the Black & Gold look to continue their late-season momentum with a three-match, eight-day stretch, starting on Saturday, Sept. 15 against FC Dallas.
Throughout the season, Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has stressed giving guys minutes, with instances like this in mind.
“I think looking at the schedule, we are going to have to use a number of guys in these games,” Berhalter said. “We talk about this internally as being a squad week where a lot of guys will get minutes. Now it’s up to us for players when they get their opportunity to perform, but also as a group to come together and support each other during this busy stretch.”
Crew SC, which is 4-1-1 in its last six games prior to last week’s bye, heads to Western Conference-leading Dallas this Saturday before traveling to Portland on Sept. 19 and returning home to host Colorado on Sept. 22.
With Wil Trapp, Zack Steffen and Gyasi Zardes returning from duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, along with Harrison Afful with Ghana and Christian Martinez with Panama, Saturday’s match against Dallas may feature a few shifting pieces.
That being said, a tight schedule, short rest, players arriving from international break; it’s nothing necessarily new for Crew SC players, and something that provides comfort knowing there is a depth chart at every position.
“We’ve got a lot of talent in this group, so at any position, there is a lot of competition,” said defender Lalas Abubakar.
Abubakar has started 17 games in 19 regular-season appearances for Crew SC this season, nearly triple the amount of time earned in 2017. Notably, Crew SC’s backline has consistently fluctuated between eight players this season as part of a contingent that has allowed only 16 goals on the road, tied for the second-lowest in Major League Soccer.
From match minutes to position-related output, Crew SC’s parity not only exists in appearances but also in production.
Against NYCFC on Sept. 1, Justin Meram tallied his first goal since his return to the Club, becoming the 15th different player to score for Crew SC in 2018, the most under Berhalter and one short of tying the Club record. The team’s previous high under Berhalter came in 2014 when 12 members of the Black & Gold each tallied a goal.
Looking back, Crew SC’s overall distribution is as much a testament to the player’s readiness than any particular scheme, according to Abubakar.
“It is up to us, the players, to keep pushing each other every single day and whoever the coaches pick to step on the field to help the team get a win will be ready.”
Crew SC’s match against Dallas on Sept. 15 kicks off at 8 p.m. ET. As part of the match, supporters are invited to the final Summer Watch Party, hosted at Platform Beer Co.